Apex predators are those in the animal kingdom so fearsome, so deadly, they have no natural predators. Saltwater crocodiles, lions, and orca whales are a few of these commanding species. But did you know raptors are included in the list of top predators as well?
No, not the vicious velociraptor, its descendent – modern birds of prey. Hawks, eagles, vultures, and falcons, just to name a few, are all considered kings and queens of the food chain.
Picture it: a hawk spots his prey from a distance of 100 feet. He hunts during the day, but he’s much too far away for the smaller animal to notice.
With his meal in sight, the winged hunter shoots across the sky at a blistering speed of 120 mph, swooping down and capturing the animal in his razor-sharp talons before they even sense the danger. The hawk has a grip strength of 200 pounds of pressure per square inch, there’s no escape.
This is the fate that befell the American goldfinches who were enjoying their own dinner of nuts and seeds in a thoughtful neighbor’s backyard. Their third companion got away, but two of the tiny birds became the hawk’s next meal.
The shocked homeowner caught the entire incident on her bird feeder camera, which she regularly uses to admire the charming backyard birds. She understands the laws of nature, however, captioning the video “hawks have to eat too.”
“Hawks are known for having impeccable eye sight and can detect rabbits from a mile out, so snatching up both birds in one fell swoop is absolutely within the realm of possibility,” added Nature is Metal.
Despite Their Speed, Hawks Have Surprisingly Limited Strength
Watching the hawk’s vicious attack on the little goldfinches, it’s easy to wonder – what else can they carry off? Is an adventurous dog or cat in danger of becoming hawk food? Well, yes and no.
Hawks’ primary weapon is their speed. Their strength is actually somewhat unimpressive by comparison. Now, that’s not to say a hawk isn’t a ferocious predator – it absolutely is. But to make flight possible, most raptors can’t lift much more than a few pounds, including the hawk.
“They cannot swoop down and carry off more than their weight,” Pat Silovsky, director of the Milford Nature Center in Kansas explained to PetMD. “Although they may come and attack something larger on the ground and eat it there.”
“The predator that is most tenacious is the great horned owl, which can take small foxes,” Silovsky continued. “If someone is missing [pets], it would typically [be] an owl.”
The average red-tailed hawk weighs just over 2 pounds. So unless you have a very small dog or cat, they should be safe. That said, it never hurts to keep an eye on your pets, especially in the presence of apex predators.